Monday, February 01, 2010

Location, Location, Location

The NY Times had a fascinating review of the run up to the decision to pull the plug on the KSM trial in lower Manhattan-and the role of the real estate community appears to have played a key role: "The reversal on whether to try the alleged 9/11 terrorists blocks from the former World Trade Center site seemed to come suddenly this week, after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg abandoned his strong support for the plan and said the cost and disruption would be too great. But behind the brave face that many New Yorkers had put on for weeks, resistance had been gathering steam. After a dinner in New York on Dec. 14, Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, pulled aside David Axelrod, President Obama’s closest adviser, to convey an urgent plea: move the 9/11 trial out of Manhattan."

But there's more here: "Soon, though, New York real estate executives were raising concerns with the Obama administration, according to Mr. Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York. Mr. Spinola said he had received calls and e-mail messages from the board’s members. Residential real estate brokers were “going berserk,” as he put it, worried that they would no longer be able to sell apartments downtown. Commercial brokers feared they would not be able to lease office space. On Nov. 20, the Friday before Thanksgiving, the real estate executive William C. Rudin held a meeting at his office to talk about issues with Jim Messina, a deputy White House chief of staff, according to Mr. Spinola."

Finally Bloomberg was personally confronted by what, arguably, is the foremost special interest in NYC: "The unhappiness grew. During the Real Estate Board of New York’s annual gala, held on Jan. 21, Mr. Bloomberg dropped by, and Bloomberg officials said they got “an earful on that” from real estate executives, all of whom were angry about the plan. A week later, his public opinion had changed, and so, it seems, had the ultimate destination of the trials."

Talk about being right for the wrong (or at least less compelling) reason-and only it appears to have happened after the momentum on all of this mishogas had begun to shift-and after the public confidence in the Obama administration's handling of the entire gamut of national security questions had begone to erode. Jennifer Rubin captures this shift: "But something else, I suspect, more fundamental has occurred. The entire premise of the Obama anti-terrorism approach, which entailed a willful ignorance on the nature of our enemy, a cavalier indifference to the concerns of ordinary Americans (be they 9/11 families or New York tax payers), and a headlong plunge into uncharted legal terrain has evaporated in the wake of the Christmas Day bomber and the general perception that the Obama team has not a clue what they are doing."

The Keystone Kops nature of all of this is underscored by the failure of AG Holder to even consult NYC's mayor or police commissioner-an astonishing lack of due diligence that was repeated when Justice failed to get the advice and consent of the administration's own national security team before it decided to Mirandize the Fruit of Kaboom bomber.

The Times points this out: "The breakdown of support for the trials in New York might have actually been assisted by the way New York officials were first notified by the Obama administration. Mr. Holder called Mr. Bloomberg and Gov. David A. Paterson only a few hours before his public announcement on Nov. 13; and Mr. Kelly got a similar call that morning from Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, whose office had been picked to prosecute the cases. But by the time those calls were made, the decision had already been reported in the news media, which was how Mr. Bloomberg learned about it, according to mayoral aides."

The depth of this stupidity is jaw dropping-and why Holder is still in his job is beyond our comprehension: "One senior Bloomberg official, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to antagonize the White House, said: “When Holder was making the decision he didn’t call Ray Kelly and say, ‘What do you think?’ He didn’t call the mayor and say, ‘What would your position be?’ They didn’t reach out until it got out there."

But back to the issue of the worthiness of the civilian trial. Even the Times is starting to raise some doubts about the sense of it all: "And so it is possible that the reversal will call into question the calibrated effort of Mr. Obama and his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., to bring the handling of suspected terrorists out of the realm of military emergency and into the halls of civilian justice."

As well it should, because it gets to the heart of the sea worthiness of the criminal justice model-and, as the old NY Knick Michael Ray Richardson once famously observed, "the ship be sinking." Here's the full exchange-and Michael Ray could well be describing Holder's tenuous hold on his job:

"REPORTER: What do you think is happening to the team?

RICHARDSON: The ship be sinking.

REPORTER: How far can it sink?

RICHARDSON: Sky's the limit."

So NYC's mayor-by listening to his real estate buddies as he always seems to do-did all of us a solid. And if this becomes the beginning of the unraveling of the entire Obama approach to homeland security, than Michael Bloomberg will have unwittingly done his country a great service.